Tuesday, February 28, 2017

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 16: "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Thomaston Opera House (preview)

By James V. Ruocco

Young Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who was forced to go into hiding during World War II to escape imprisonment and death from the Nazi regime. Together, with seven others, including her parents Otto and Edith Frank, she lived more than two years in "a secret annex" at  Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam.
The story, as told through the inspiring words from her world-famous diary, which she wrote while in hiding, is the basis for "The Diary of Anne Frank," the award-winning Broadway play that retraces Anne's life and those around her prior to being discovered and deported to the Nazi concentration camps.

In Thomaston, the two-act drama is being revived by Landmark Community Theatre, a local theater  group that stages its productions at the historic Thomaston Opera House.
To bring Anne Frank's story to life, the theater has chosen actress/director Lucia DeFilippis Dressel to recreate the fraught, claustrophobic atmosphere of "the hiding place" and the many stories and events that were witnessed and recorded by the wide-eyed, teenaged writer named Anne.
When asked to direct "The Diary of Anne Frank," Dressel immediately accepted the challenge. "There was no hesitation," she recalls. "As a student, I was always riveted by WWII facts. As a teacher, I shaped my curriculum each year to include an intensive unit on the Holocaust, often in conjunction with Elie Weisel's novel, "Night.'  
"I have also taken students to the Jewish Heritage museum in NYC, and have hosted Holocaust survivor guest speakers. It has become a mission to share the story of the 12 million victims who died during the Holocaust and to teach future generations about tolerance. Plus, as a director, I never turn away from a good drama."

"The Diary of Anne Frank" was first performed on Broadway in 1955, using a play script written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Landmark's production, utilizes the play text from the 1997 Broadway revival, which was a complete revision of the Goodrich/Hackett script, adapted by Wendy Kesselman.

"The play is very well-written, and for that I am extremely grateful to the playwrights," explains Dressel. "They have chosen perfect passages from Anne's diary, and the characters are vivid and dynamic. Its message of tolerance, peace, heroism, and the fortitude of the human spirit is beautifully conveyed."
In the rehearsal room, there's a lot of hard, detailed work to be done. Given the material, the story, the characters, the relationships, the interactions, the varying themes, the timelines and the emotional sweep of its frightening ending, staging "The Diary of Anne Frank" can be especially daunting. But not for Dressel.
Behind-the-scenes, she is a professional, caring, understanding dynamo, who has created a very constructive and productive atmosphere since the night of the first rehearsal. "On our first night together, I gave each cast member a copy of  'The Diary of Anne Frank' and asked them to read it as research," she recalls. "I treat every script as if it is a piece of literature. And as an ensemble, we explore the characters, the plots, the transitions, the ebbs and flows of the script, while always remembering that we are portraying everyday people who were thrust into extraordinarily horrific experiences.

"We also work very hard at rehearsals on the nuances of movement, voice, and expression and laugh a lot (something I insist on when doing drama) so that the cast is trusting of each other."
During one of the play's earliest rehearsals, the cast enjoyed a three-hour dinner at a local restaurant. They also converse daily on "Facebook" or "take the time" to enjoy snacks, dinners and daily conversation during rehearsals or breaks.
"Each actor also had to come into a set rehearsal with researched information about his/her character, and share the information with the group," Dressel reveals. "There is also a lot of crying and deep feelings that will become more pronounced as we begin to run larger segments of the show."

"The Diary of Anne Frank" stars  Lexi White as Anne Frank, Johnny Revicki as Otto Frank, Suzanne Powers as Edith Frank, Jennifer Dressel as Margot Frank, Joshua Gogol as Peter Van Daan, Casey McKenna as Mr. Hans Van Daan, Dianna Walker as Mrs. Petronella Van Daan, Amy Kopchik as Miep Gies, Dennis Walsh as Mr. Kraler, Bret Bisallion as Mr. Albert  Dussel, Joshua Luscak as German soldier 1, Aric Martin as German soldier 2 and James Wood as the Accountant.

Who to cast? Who not to cast?
Per Dressel, not as easy task, by a long shot.
"Casting is always difficult in that you hate to disappoint people, especially the many lovely young girls who tried out for Anne.  However, when the actor fits the part, it is obvious to me. I rarely have an idea of the character ahead of time. The auditioning actor creates the character for me, and then I know that he/she is right for the part."


To win a role in the Landmark production of "The Diary of Anne Frank," each member of the ensemble cast had to project the major traits of the characters: strength, adaptability and sensitivity. They also had to give voice to a group of people who eventually become ordinary heroes.
"During auditions, I asked questions to see what personality traits the actors would have that would  shine through as truth to the character they were portraying," states Dressel. "This ensemble needed to fabulously channel the best and worst attributes of their characters.

"I did not choose the actors for similar physicalities  (although I am fortunate to have an Anne who is eerily similar to our dear Anne Frank), but rather for those individual aspects in the actor that I knew would make real, haunting heroes."

Case in point: Lexi White, the young actress, whom Dressel describes as the ideal Anne Frank.
"Lexi is a perfect Anne. She is young and wide-eyed, and has the same tempered exuberance that Anne had.  When she auditioned, she was equal parts self-assurance and insecurity. I knew she resembled Anne greatly, and kept hoping she would be a good actress also. I was more than pleasantly surprised...I was blown away.
"During rehearsals, the great thing I find about Lexi is that she and I explore the meaning behind Anne's words as well as the best manner in which to convey Anne's incredible courage to the audience, while also showing that she was just an ordinary young woman."

White remembers her various auditions at the Thomaston Opera House and the night she was told by Dressel that she had won the lead role of Anne Frank. "It was a Wednesday night when I was called. She said, 'There were a lot of great girls who auditioned, but we have decided the part of Anne Frank should go to you.' "
"I started crying," recalls White. "I fell to floor and I asked myself, 'Is this for real? ' " It was.
In White's eyes, the part of Anne Frank is the role of a lifetime. She admits to having both a real passion and understanding for the character she portrays.
"Anne Frank was really a very creative and artistic person. She obviously loves writing. That is her passion. In the actual story, she's energetic. In the annex, she becomes more mature and grows within herself. She has lots and lots of traits that I look up too."

Joshua Gogol, who plays Peter Van Daan in "The Diary of Anne Frank," enjoys the entire rehearsal process, from shaping and molding his character and doing improvisations to acting alongside White and the entire cast. Plus, working with Dressel, as his director.
"I have never worked with her before," he explains during a rehearsal break. "But she knows how to get me to where I need to be and what I need to be doing. She sometimes pushes me, which I like. And her voice is awesome."
Casey McKenna, who plays the part of Peter's father, Mr. Hans Van Daan, has never worked with Gogol or White before. But, to hear him tell it, it's quite an enjoyable and gratifying experience.

"At first, I did not know that Josh was relatively new to acting," he confesses. "As an actor, he brings a real thoughtfulness to his character and really digs deep to bring out the emotion this show needs. Lexi, in turn, is just a delight to work with. She's smart and funny and I think really she does a great job playing Anne. 
"Secondly, (from an actor's standpoint), it's hard to imagine at such a young age being able to relate to what Anne actually went through. But Lexi really does a great job showing us who Anne was. Lastly, with a show as emotionally draining as this one, it's important for the cast to trust each other. Even though we are a mix of some old friendships and some new, we have come together quickly to form a strong, supportive team. I'm looking forward to an incredible run."

Throughout rehearsals, McKenna mentions that working with Dressel has been great, amazing and  extraordinary."Lucia has clearly done her research on the story and has a wonderful vision for how she wants to tell it. At the same time, she allows the actors to do our own research and dig into and develop our own characters. 
"We spent a lot of time as a group talking about our characters and who they were not only during their time in the annex, but also their lives before the war and after their capture. With Lucia's guidance, I think we all have a better idea of not only who our own character is but also who everyone else is and how we all relate to each other during our time in hiding."
In conclusion, Dressel admits that staging "The Diary of Anne Frank" has been both rewarding and personally challenging. "The script is ensemble-based and all of the annex folk are on stage all the time. Hence, it is important that while two actors are conversing, or Anne is reading from her diary,  the other actors are doing things as well.
"The play is also tragic and dramatic. It is draining on the actors, particularly Johnny Revicki, who has the last excruciating monologue as Otto Frank. He explains what has happened to his family and friends. It is very moving."

 The Landmark Community Theatre production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" is being staged at the Thomaston Opera House (158 Main St., Thomaston, CT).
Performances are March 18, 24, 25, 31 and April 1 at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. March 19, 26 and April 2. Additional performances are March 17 and 23 at 10 a.m.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 283-6250.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 15, "The Watch Factory Restaurant" (Cheshire, CT) (Restaurant Review)

By James V. Ruocco

When it comes to Austrian cuisine, there are many shades of tastes and flavors that immediately spring to mind. The dishes themselves, of course, are delicious, filling, satisfying and easily enjoyable. But they can be as decidedly different as the geography of Austria itself, its many cities, regions and provinces. It's all a matter of the menu, the recipes, both new, old and traditional and the culinary skills of the actual chef who prepares them.

And therein, lies the fun, especially if you have a penchant for "all things Austrian" and are willing to indulge in its many dishes, ranging  from wiener schnitzel and kasnocken to gulasch,  fleischknodel,  rindsrouladen and bierfleisch.

Again, it's all a matter of taste, preference and how much you're willing to spend.

One my favorite places to dine is The Watch Factory Restaurant (122 Elm St. Cheshire, CT). Here, you will find a broken-in lineup of Austrian food, a smattering of German dishes and some choice American standards. The food itself is exceptional, exciting, full-flavored and so lovingly prepared, a round of seconds is not entirely out of the question. Nor is a well-stocked bag or two of "take away."
You can also happily build a lunch or dinner entirely of two or three starters. Or simply pick an entrée with a starter on the side. No small talk....Just select and order.

The restaurant, located in an old, nicely restored factory building, offers a fine selection of starters: shrimp and artichoke crepes, homemade soups, a gruyere cheese spaetzle and onion confit, scallop mousse in herbed cream, zucchini and gorgonzola puff pastries, marinated beets and gorgonzola, mussels in mustard cream and mesclun greens with different options for dressings.
For entrees, there are many different choices: pork chops with roasted peppers, atlantic sole with lemon sauce, trout with capers and brown butter, top sirloin with a shallot confit,  black pearl salmon with tomato herbed cream, duck breast with seasonal fruits and wine sauce, bratwurst with white wine mustard sauce, rack of lamb with red wine and parsley, chicken breast with a mushroom red wine sauce and roasted monkfish in garlic cream. There's also the traditional wiener schnitzel and jager schnitzel.

Lemon mousse, black forest cherry roulade, chocolate mousse, sacher schnitte with raspberry sauce, cheesecake apple strudel comprise the dessert menu.
Mostly everything is made in house, which, in turn, accounts for a unique and very different dining experience. You may have to wait a minute or two longer, but trust me, what comes out of the kitchen and lands on your table, comes from the heart.

A shrimp and artichoke crepe, for example, overflows with diverse, traditional flavors, that you savor with every bite. The filling, a divine and creamy mix of sautéed shrimp and artichokes, is light and airy rather than overstuffed and side-splitting. It is folded simply and nicely, according to the crepe handbook, and contains a perfect blend of eggs, milk, flour and salt. It's a dish that simply melts in your mouth in ways that are entirely comforting.

The idea of mussels in mustard cream, at first, sounds a bit daunting. In general, mussels are a flavorful seafood concoction cooked in dry white wine and combined with oil, garlic, shallots and salt. However, one bite or two into this decidedly wicked shellfish dish and all thoughts of traditional mussels dishes quickly fade from memory.

I've had plenty of schnitzel's in my day (chicken, pork, veal). In fact, every time my dad and mom were in the mood for something Austrian, we'd place a family order for schnitzel with red cabbage on the side. I remember polishing off every single morsel off the plate. And most often, my dad would ask the waiter for schnitzel "take away."

The Watch Factory Restaurant brought back that wonderful state of bliss with a heaping portion of veal jager schnitzel, accompanied by a sweet, deliciously prepared, pickled red cabbage. The entire dish was heavenly with plenty of savory bite and crispness. It was cooked to perfection with an exact blend of spices, flour for dredging, butter, olive oil, jager and veal stock.  My parents would have loved it and so would my grandmother.

Another wonderful dish is the black pearl salmon drenched in a mouth-watering, to-die-for tomato herbed cream.  Here, it's all about the sauce and what was wonderful about it was its spicy, creamy consistency and how it heightened the taste of the already-delicious salmon.

Dessert-wise, everything on the menu is work ordering. Not all at once, of course. But during each and every visit to this establishment. Top of the list is the sacher schnitte with raspberry sauce, the cheesecake and the lemon or chocolate mousse.

The Watch Factory Restaurant is owned and operated by Chef Markus Patsch, who began working and cooking in his native Austria, South Africa and Germany. He came to the United States in the 1970's as personal chef for renowned pianist and entertainer Victor Borge.
Patsch  opened his first restaurant, the Gourmet Table in Darien, CT (it has since closed). His second, The Watch Factory Restaurant, has been running for years with its steady clientele of regulars, business class workers, students, out-of-towners and first-time visitors/soon-to-be-regulars.
This is a man who knows his food, loves and understands it, is not afraid to take chances and is often  willing to experiment or try something new. And that, in a nutshell, is what make his restaurant, so special.

One of the nicest things about The Watch Factory Restaurant is its polite, courteous and charming staff. Every one of them goes the extra distance to make sure that every customer who comes through the restaurant doors feels perfectly comfortable at all times. They answer whatever questions you may ask. They are well-versed in the Austrian, German and American cuisine at hand. They make suggestions if you're unsure about what to order for lunch or dinner. And never once, do they make your feel rushed or out of place. They are very, very welcoming, which, when you think about it, is rare nowadays. Patsch has done himself proud.

Much remains familiar and enjoyable at The Watch Factory Restaurant. Its well-crafted food that leaves a good impression and has you hankering for a return visit or booking almost immediately.   The menu, carefully prepared by Patsch, is a nice mix of creative choices that appeals to everyone. And, the restaurant delivers it well. I can't wait to return. Tomorow, perhaps.

The Watch Factory Restaurant, 122 Elm St, Cheshire, CT
(203) 271-1717.

Hours of Operation:
Sunday - Closed
Monday - Closed
Tuesday - Saturday:
Lunch: 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Dinner: 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM

(A special thanks to Linda Hodson Gordona for recommending this restaurant for review) 


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 14: A Review, "The Who's Tommy" at the Warner Theatre

By James V. Ruocco

The success of a theatrical production.....drama, comedy or musical....rests largely at the helm of its director. He or she is the auteur, the visionary, the creator who takes the text off the paper, molds and shapes it into something that brims with life, plays and toys with the senses and lets you bask in all its theatrical glory.
Jonathan Larsen's "Rent," immediately, springs to mind. So does "Dear Evan Hansen" and  "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
A fourth, of course, is the original 1993 production of  "The Who's Tommy" and it's subsequent West End production in London, three years later.
Both productions rocked its audience into a frenzied stratosphere and acid-trip high that was absolutely unbeatable.

That torrent-filled, drug-induced high permeates Sharon Wilcox' thrilling, emotional staging of "The Who's Tommy" at the Warner Theatre. If anyone was meant to stage Pete Townshend's brazen, quirky, absurdist rock opera, it's Wilcox. She doesn't just recreate "Tommy," she breathes new life into this celebrated musical story that began life as a concept album in 1969, then, was transformed into a kitschy Ken Russell movie musical and finally, a Broadway and London production.

Her inspired take on the material captures both the creator's spiritual, sexual and atmospheric subtext, its emotional frenzy and forgiveness and its rock opera aura. She adds so many swirls, whirls, layers and colors to this "Tommy," Townshend's overly-familiar musical score and story actually struck me anew.
Moreover, there is a terrific, electrifying energy to Wilcox's work that grabs you from the second the production starts and continues through the end of both Act I and Act II. It doesn't drop for a single meg-a-second as her fully committed cast embrace the show's material, its rock concert feel, its high-amped concept and its often quiet, tender, thought-provoking moments.

Wilcox, admittedly, has never been to London. Really? Yes, really. Nonetheless, she puts "the English" back into "Tommy," which, surprisingly, was absent, at times, in both the Broadway and West End production. Here, actors often speak or sing with English accents. Their moves, their stances, their positioning, their manners are reflective of both the men and women who lives across the pond. And lastly, the actual groupings of the characters through both dance and stage blocking, are unmistakably English. Heightening this experience, is the very English set design (superbly executed by Steve Houk) and Wilcox's plucky, imaginative choreography, which recalls elements from various West End musicals including both "Blood Brothers, "Tommy" and  those long-forgotten BBC variety shows.

Wilcox is so in sync with "all things English," there were moments in "Tommy," where I actually thought I was back at London's West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre instead of downtown, fucking Torrington. This is also due, in part, to the flawless lighting design, crafted by LBC Lighting; Renee C. Purdy and Aurora Montenero's  exceptional, colorful costume design (very Carnaby Street in Act II); and Chris LaPlante's explosive sound design.
There is also a fight sequence in Act I, staged by Wilcox and fight choreographer Rob Richnavsky, which effectively uses strobe lighting to enhance the dramatic momentum. Brilliant, just brilliant.
But wait! There's more.

A  movie screen, strategically placed smack, dab, right above the big, panoramic playing area (this is the Warner Theater, folks, not Seven Angels) allows for beautifully designed projections, videos, live action, pop art, posters and news clips to chronicle the passage of time, from Tommy's birth in the 1940's to his cult status in the '60s. This brilliant video/production design enhancement, has been cleverly crafted by director/choreographer Sharon Wilcox and the equally talented Katherine Ray. It is worked seamlessly into the ongoing action without missing a single beat by Ray and her video/production crew Craig Clavette and Randale Nunley.

But things don't stop there.
To keep the story of "Tommy" flowing at breakneck speed, Wilcox, genius that she is, has assembled a first-class running crew (Terry Breen, Kenneth Austin, John Quinn, Liz Glasser, Tori Campbell, Michelle Rinaldi, Craig Clavette, Anthony Esandrio and Scott Iwanicki.) to change and move sets (supervised by Key Grip, Taryn Glasser) faster than you could say Clark Kent. All ten of these people, deserve a standing ovation in their own right. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

The story of "Tommy," if, you may remember, is hardly Ben & Jerry's ice cream or Tiptoe Through the Tulips. It's unsettling stuff but, then again, so was Jonathan Larsen's "Rent." Nonetheless, the story, as envisioned by Pete Townshend  and Des McAnuff, begins with the newly married Mrs. Walker trying to survive in World War II London while her husband Captain Walker is sent off to war in Nazi Germany.

Of course, her handsome husband is captured and presumed dead just about the same time she gives birth to a beautiful baby boy named Tommy. By the time the war ends, Mrs. Walker has a boyfriend, has sex repeatedly (she is a very hot redhead, you know) and before you can say Paulette Goddard, Captain Walker comes home, catches them in the act, shoots and kills the son-of-a-bitch while a traumatized young Tommy witnesses the crime and, for story purposes, drifts into a catatonic state, unable to hear, speak or see. Not "Coronation Street," by a longshot.

As "Tommy" evolves, Captain Walker and his wife search for a cure, never giving up hope, anxiously waiting for a miracle. Unbeknownst to them, young Tommy ends up being sexually abused by his twisted Uncle Ernie  and tortured and bullied by his nasty Cousin Kevin and his mates.
But since this is musical theater, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Tommy eventually grows up, becomes a very famous pinball wizard, gets his sight back via a second trauma (thank you, Mrs. Walker) and is suddenly transformed into a cultish Carnaby Street rock messiah hero with the same sort of obsessed groupies who once ripped the pants and other unmentionables off the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and Cliff Richard.

The outstanding element of any musical or rock opera is, first and foremost, the band and its musical direction. For "Tommy," musical director Dan Ringuette (he also conducts and plays Keyboard 1) is the right choice to lead this mammoth production to musical victory at the Warner. He gives pop, pulse, frenzy, dazzle, humor and edge to Pete Townshend's refreshingly melodic, sometimes, twisty, complicated score.

 There's lots going on (one musical number after another, some short, some long) because "Tommy" never actually stops. Of course, therein, lies the challenge, but Ringuette is never once daunted.
The sentiments of "Tommy," the harmonies, the frenzied beats and rhythms, the sexual musicality, the chants, the declarations, the irony, the camp, the drama, the passing of time and the bloody oddities of the piece explode with lovingly, precisely interpreted eclecticism.

One minute you get the melodic "It's a Boy" and 'Twenty One," quickly followed by the edgy "Amazing Journey." Or much later, the glorious "Pinball Wizard," the harmonious "I Believe My Own Eyes" and the plot changing "Smash the Mirror."

Smartly interpreted by Ringuette and his very talented seven-member band, Paul Tine (Keyborad 2), Chris King (Keyboard 3) , Mark Garthwait (Guitar 1), Meric Martin (Guitar 2), Dan Porri (Bass), Nate Dobas (Drums) and Dan Borgman (Horn), this production of "Tommy" moves swiftly into the 21st century and hits its audience happily in the face with songs they know and love (lots of "Tommy" groupies were in the audience opening night cheering, texting and taking those fucking ridiculous vanity selfies of themselves) without the datedness and darkness of other productions including several national touring companies that quickly derailed halfway through the first act.

If ever there was anyone more suited to play the pivotal role of Mrs. Walker in "Tommy," it's Roxie Quinn. She is a beautiful, beguiling actress and singer with enough God-given talent to address, tackle and inhabit the part of this gutsy, driven character. Here, she is presented with a plum role that requires depth, range, personality, charm, allure and motherly concern. She inhabits the role intuitively from start to finish. She never misses a beat. And vocally, Quinn's voice is Broadway caliber, giving everything she sings ("Twenty-One," "Smash the Mirror," "Do You Think It's All Right?) the vocal strength, style and shape of a personal confession.  She often reminds one of "Rent's" Idina Menzel or a young Betty Buckley.

Adam Boe, ideally cast as Captain Walker, returns to the Warner stage after a 16-year absence. He is a very talented and charismatic leading man, well-matched to play opposite leading lady Roxie Quinn. He's got one of the best male voices in the show and his duet with the vocally perfect Quinn ("I Believe My Own Eyes") is a genuine showstopper worthy of a standing ovation. Elsewhere, Boe exhibits great strength and understanding of his character, the music and his interactions and exchanges with the principals, supporting cast and the ensemble. He also looks as if he was plucked right out of some BBC drama, set in wartime England.


"Tommy" marks the first time I've been privy to seeing the wonderfully charismatic Peter Bard on the Warner stage. As the bullying Cousin Kevin, Bard is a confident, multifaceted performer, so bloody well connected to the role, one quickly forgets he's an actor in a big stage musical. Bard is the real deal, folks. He owns the part of Cousin Kevin. His main vocals ("Cousin Kevin," "Tommy Can You Here Me?") are consistent and impressive. His moves, facial expressions and quirky persona are "spot on" and completely in sync with Townshend's vision of the character. And, to his credit, Bard's characterization far surpasses that of Anthony Barrile from the 1993 Broadway production of "Tommy" and Hal Fowler, who played Cousin Kevin on the West End stage.

Josh Newey, who rocked the Warner Stage Company studio theatre last year as the manic Ash in the wild and deliciously wacky "Evil Dead: The Musical," brings enough energy and twisty panache to the part of Uncle Ernie to fill not just one, but five different auditoriums. This is not a likeable character. After all, he does sexually abuse young Tommy. But Newey is an actor and a magnificent one at that. Here, he cuts looses, goes hog wild and adds more color and shading to the part than both Paul Kandel on Broadway and Ian Barthlomew in London. I, for one, can't wait to see what he does next. And, I will be there on opening night to cheer him on. Like Bard, Newey is the real deal.

The part of the older catatonic Tommy, who also doubles as Narrator, is certainly a difficult role to pull off. Musically, there's a lot of different vocals terrain to address. Acting wise, you have to be completely in sync with the character's deaf, dumb and blindness. Noel Roberge who was wonderfully charismatic in the Warner Stage Company's thrilling production of "Assassins," is ideally cast as Tommy. He rarely disconnects from the character's troubled mental and physical state and is quite comfortable vocally in the show's big, swirling moments "I'm Free," "Sensation," "Welcome" and the closing anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It."
Roberge has also done his homework. He often sings and speaks with an English accent and shows impressive range toward the end of Act II when Tommy is transformed into a pinball wizard media celebrity/rock star and eventual messiah of the people. There's no doubt that this Tommy is plucked right from 1960's London, Carnaby Street and the BBC. Roberge executes all the right moves, the right stances and positioning and lastly, the right celebrity overkill.

In the role of the Acid Queen, made famous by Tina Turner in the 1975 Ken Russell musical film adaptation of "Tommy," Kate Chamberlain is sexy, pitch-perfect and alluring. She slinks about the Warner stage with acid-induced gusto and commands your attention with her vocally perfect interpretation of the dynamically rousing "Acid Queen."

A show of this size and caliber needs a very strong ensemble cast and Wilcox achieves that with many of her casting choices. Bronwyn Hamill, for example, has a variety of roles, which she plays with just the right amount of poise, depth and personality. Nicole Bard, who thrilled audiences last season as Laura in "The Glass Menagerie" at the Thomaston Opera House, is in fine form here. She too plays multiple roles, each one different from the next. Catlin Barra, who was absolutely terrific  as Shelley in "Evil Dead: The Musical" at the Warner, is also in fine form. Then, there's Lauren Jacob who looks and acts as if she stepped out of a Carnaby Street fashion magazine, circa, London, 1964.

"The Who's Tommy" is one of the most ambitious productions to be showcased at the Warner Theatre in recent years. It is a crisp, savvy, insanely rousing musical porridge of Englishness with healthy and absurdist dashes of psychedelic daydreams, Christ-like symbolism, nostalgia, acid trips, time travel, murder, sex, bullying, homosexuality, obsessive groupies, Carnaby Street fashion, romance, cover ups, traumas, miracles, and oh, yes, a pinball machine.

"The Who's Tommy" is being staged at the Warner Theatre (68 Main St, Torrington, CT). Performances are 8 p.m. Feb. 10 and 11 and 2 p.m. Feb. 12.
For tickets or more information, call (860) 489-7180.

(Jim Ruocco welcomes your comments. You can contact him at JimRuocco@aol.com)